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5 Ways Homeowners Impact Detention Basins

During storms, water is usually absorbed into natural surfaces like soil and vegetation. However, if the stormwater lands on a hard surface such as sidewalks, roadways and rooftops, the stormwater cannot be absorbed and will run-off, likely to a nearby stormwater detention basin. Detention basins, or detention ponds, collect and store stormwater to prevent flooding and erosion of local waterways.

These detention basins can be found near residential and commercial areas. They can create a beautiful environment for homeowners to enjoy and increase property value as a result. However, if the detention pond is not maintained, it can become unsightly and lose function. Homeowners Associations (HOAs) are responsible for the maintenance of their stormwater ponds, but it is important to note that residents also impact the condition of detention basins.

Another reason residents should consider their impact: Detention basins release water to local waterways, so the condition of detention ponds affects water quality, the health of your local watershed and of your community.

5 ways you can impact detention basins:

1. Trash

Trash that is not disposed of properly can be picked up by stormwater run-off and washed into the detention basin. Large amounts of trash in the detention pond will accumulate in water inlet and outlet pipes and block water flow. Any trash in the detention pond can also end up in local waterways, which has a broader impact on the health of the watershed and your community.

Stormwater run-off brings litter into detention basins. Be sure to dispose of trash properly!

2. Herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer

Stormwater run-off will introduce chemicals used on lawns into the detention basin. Since this source of water is not cleaned by a water treatment plant, chemicals washed into the detention basin will eventually end up in our local waterways. These chemicals harm aquatic life and wildlife that live in and around that body of water.

3. Yard waste

Dumping leaves and grass clippings into the water (or storm drains that lead to detention ponds) will also block the water inlet and outlet pipes of the detention pond and decrease the flow of water. These materials will also increase the amount of nutrients in the water. When a large amount of nitrogen or phosphorous are present in the water, algae rapidly multiply (called algae bloom) and turn the water green.

Stormwater can bring excess nutrients (often from lawn fertilizer, grass clippings, leaves, sediment, and pet waste) into a detention pond, causing algae to proliferate.

4. Over-mowing near detention ponds

Native vegetation near the detention basin deters any pesky wildlife, like geese, limits the amount of chemicals and debris that enter the basin, and prevents shoreline erosion. Mowing too close to the shoreline can facilitate erosion and deterioration of a detention pond.

5. Pets

Any pet waste that is left on the ground can be picked up by stormwater run-off and introduced into the detention basin. Animal waste contains bacteria and nutrients that will degrade the water quality and affect aquatic life living in the detention basin.

Stormwater can carry pet waste into your local detention basin, affecting water quality and aquatic life. It’s important to be a responsible pet owner.

How you can sustain an effective and beautiful detention basin:

  1. Properly dispose of trash and recyclables. When taking walks around your neighborhood, consider picking up litter to prevent it from ending up in the detention pond. 
  2. Do not dump anything into the detention pond or storm drain and be mindful of how you dispose of yard waste.
  3. Limit chemical use to what is necessary (and reduce usage if possible!).
  4. Keep grass long near the shoreline of the detention pond.
  5. Be responsible for picking up your pet’s waste.
  6. Talk to your HOA about planting a native buffer. A vegetative buffer of native plants around a detention basin can beautify your neighborhood while preventing contaminants, like chemicals, litter, and pet waste, from reaching the water. 
  7. Educate your neighbors about the purpose of a detention basin and how our everyday actions can have an impact. Share how they can contribute to a well-functioning detention basin that regulates stormwater run-off while adding aesthetic value to your neighborhood!

Additional Resources:
  1. Video: “Stormwater Pond Maintenance for Homeowners,”
    Tippecanoe County Partnership for Water Quality, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgmxXfkW1hI
  2. “Maintaining Your Detention Basin,” Assembly of Rouge Communities,http://www.wbtownship.org/document_center/Maintaining_Detention_Basins.pdf

Ways Homeowners Impact Detention Basins – Newsletter

Stormwater detention ponds are important for reducing flooding in your community. However, if detention ponds are not maintained, they can become unsightly and lose function. Homeowners Associations (HOA) are responsible for the maintenance of their stormwater ponds, but it is important to note that residents also impact the condition of detention basins. From lawn care to pet ownership, everyday choices can affect detention pond function, water quality, and aesthetic value. To learn more, visit www.dupagerivers.org/5-ways-homeowners-impact-detention-basins

Benefits of Native Buffers for Detention Basins

No one wants to deal with a flooded basement or maneuver around submerged streets after a storm. Unfortunately, the risk of flooding increases with suburban development—native vegetation, soil, and landscape depressions that store stormwater are replaced with impermeable surfaces such as roads, parking lots, and rooftops. Rainwater easily runs off these surfaces, putting more strain on our waterways and stormwater infrastructure.

Detention ponds, also called detention basins or retention ponds, are important structures that help prevent flooding. A detention pond is a man-made area that collects and releases stormwater run-off into local waterways.

While man-made detention ponds are effective for reducing flooding, they do not treat and clean water as successfully as wetlands. A deteriorating detention pond often releases murky, green water into local waterways, effecting the health of our watershed and our community. 

A native buffer, or strip of native vegetation, can be added around the shoreline to restore a deteriorating detention pond. Some signs of a deteriorating detention pond:

  • Eroded shoreline
  • Increased animal droppings
  • Murky water
  • Algae bloom

5 benefits of adding a native buffer to a detention pond

1. Reduces shoreline erosion

Shoreline erosion can cause nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which are naturally found in soil, to be introduced into a detention pond and lead to algae bloom. A native buffer, made up of native plants with deep root systems, reduces the risk of shoreline erosion by stabilizing the soil.

An example of shoreline erosion. A native buffer, made up of plants with deep roots, can better stabilize the soil.

2. Minimizes water contamination

Native buffers also reduce the amount of chemicals, such as herbicides and pesticides, from entering the detention basin (and eventually downstream bodies of water) through stormwater run-off. Native plants, well adapted to local environmental conditions, do not require the use of herbicides or pesticides.

3. Lowers maintenance requirements

Having a native buffer around a detention pond also decreases the amount of mowing required. Grasses should be allowed to remain long around native vegetation to create a dense buffer, reducing the amount of chemical run-off into the detention basin.

4. Discourages unwanted wildlife and animal waste contamination

Having a native buffer serves as a barrier to discourage pesky wildlife, such as geese, from lingering around the detention basin. The buffer also works to reduce the amount of animal waste that is introduced into the detention basin. Animal waste contains bacteria and nutrients which will run-off into ponds and deteriorate the water conditions.

Without a vegetative buffer, geese can easily access ponds.

5. Adds aesthetic value to the neighborhood

A native buffer creates a beautiful aesthetic environment for the community while adding the beneficial factors of keeping the waterways healthier. A beautiful and well-maintained detention pond can also increase property values.

It is also important to note that some native plants are better suited for certain environmental conditions, such as having deeper roots to gather water and stabilize the soil. Ensure that the environmental conditions will support the native vegetation by checking factors such as sunlight, water, soil quality and climate.

Additional resources on native buffers:
  1. “Native Buffer Program,” Little Rock Lake Association, https://littlerocklake.org/native_buffer_program
  2. “Natural Landscaping Design Guidelines,” Village of Plainfield, https://www.plainfield-il.org/pages/documents/NaturalLandscapingDesignGuidelines.pdf

Benefits of Native Buffers for Detention Basins – Newsletter

Planting a native buffer, or strip of native plants, around a stormwater detention pond can transform a suffering detention pond into a well-functioning and beautiful feature in your neighborhood. A buffer of native plants stabilizes the shoreline, reduces water contamination, and lowers maintenance required to keep a detention basin in good condition. A naturalized detention basin not only prevents flooding and water contamination, but can also provide aesthetic value, opportunities for recreation, and a home for wildlife habitat. To learn more, visit www.dupagerivers.org/native-buffer-benefits

Stormwater Detention Basin Basics – Newsletter

A stormwater detention pond can make a community more resilient to flooding by collecting and temporarily storing stormwater. Detention ponds can also improve water quality by keeping pollutants and sediment out of downstream waterways. To ensure effective management of stormwater, regular detention pond maintenance is required. Detention ponds are usually maintained by Homeowners Associations, but there are steps homeowners can take to aid the function and visual appeal of their local detention pond. To learn more, visit www.dupagerivers.org/detention-basin-basics